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British Press Engages in Selective Motive Mongering

We’ve recently discussed the media bias against intelligent design (ID) (see here and here). As also reported, the British Independent published a harshly anti-ID article adopting the rhetoric of ID-critics as if it were reportable fact. This same article made much ado about the alleged religious motives of proponents of intelligent design. Yet The Independent relies upon the British Humanist Association (BHA) as an authority which opposes teaching ID. This BHA has an anti-religious agenda which instructs people to live “without religious [belief]”. The BHA seeks “an end” to the “privileged position of religion — and Christianity in particular” in society. For The Independent to harp upon the alleged religious motives of ID-proponents and ignore all potential anti-religious motives of ID-critics is not only poor scholarship and biased journalism, it is blatant hypocrisy. However, as discussed below, what matters is the scientific evidence, because motives are irrelevant in scientific discourse.

More Anti-Religious Motives of British Darwinists
On its web page defining humanism, BHA links to the Third Humanist Manifesto, which claims that “[h]umans are … the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing.” The manifesto is published by the American Humanist Association, which in 1996 named Britain’s own Richard Dawkins as its “Humanist of the Year.” During his acceptance speech, Dawkins announced that “[f]aith is one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate.” Indeed, according to the current cover of Wired Magazine, Dawkins is presently part of a “Crusade Against Religion”:

Meanwhile, pro-ID British bloggers have revealed that the recently formed British Center for Science Education (BCSE) was founded by a group of secular humanists with anti-religious agendas and was born out of a group called “BlackShadow” run by vocal atheists. BlackShadow’s website has clear political and cultural goals: it solicits explicit support from a peculiar collection of groups as it invites those who are “gay, liberal, a single mum, a cohabitee, a believer in evolution, or an atheistic or agnostic” to oppose ID.

Clearly some British Darwinists have an anti-religious agenda associated with various political and cultural goals, one of which seems to be to eradicate religion from the public sphere.

Motives Don’t Matter
Evolution is a legitimate scientific theory which deserves to be taught in schools. If some of Britain’s leading evolutionist advocates are avowed atheists with an agenda to eradicate religion, so what? That doesn’t make evolution any less scientific. Similarly, ID is an empirical argument about the cause-and-effect relationship between intelligence and information in cells which uses the scientific method to make its claims. If some believe it has larger religious implications, so what? Evolution is apparently being used to advance analogous anti-religious political agendas in Britain.

The personal religious–or anti-religious–beliefs or motives of scientists do not disqualify their bona fide scientific views from the classroom. But The Independent selectively harps upon the supposed religious motives of ID-proponents in Britain, while ignoring the blatantly anti-religious motives of the very authorities it quotes against ID.

If The Independent wants to play the motive-mongering game, it should consider how the teaching of evolution in Britain’s biology classrooms would be affected in light of the anti-religious agenda of leading evolution advocates in Britain, such as Dawkins, the BCSE, and The Independent‘s preferred authority opposing intelligent design: the British Humanist Association.


Casey Luskin

Associate Director and Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



atheismBCSEBritish Center for Science EducationRichard Dawkins